Welcome to The Clubhouse

Curator's Note

Surrounded by his own creations, the Bravolebrities, each night of the week, Andy Cohen has made a name for himself as the first gay-Jewish-nighttime-interactive talk-show host. Cohen is the executive vice president of development for Bravo Television, the host of Watch What Happens Live, and the moderator for every Housewives reunion show. He weaves elements of both his Judaism and his sexuality throughout each show. From the Mazel of the day to each day’s Jack-hole, Cohen’s politics and opinions are anything but subtle. And people love him.

Equally opinionated and loved is Real Housewife of the OC, Heather Dubrow. Dubrow entered the scene in 2012, describing herself in Season One as “the only Jewish brunette in a sea of shiksa blondes” and in Season Two “like Mary Poppins, but Jewish.” Similar to Cohen, Dubrow is not afraid to tackle difficult issues. In season one she struggles with identity loss resulting from choosing motherhood over career. In season two, she describes the safety her theater community provided her as a teen.

In this clip, Dubrow, Cohen, and Willie Garson (aka Stanford Blatch) discuss what it means to be a Mean Girl and whether or not Alexis Bellino was bullied in Costa Rica. Their responses are exemplary of Note 51 in Susan Sontag’s infamous piece “Notes on Camp.” According to Sontag, “The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony.” The modern sensibility in this scene is the recognition that the bullying is a serious issue, and when Alexis chose to join the cast of a television show about relationships, she undermines the severity of a major social problem by claiming to be a victim of bullying. In the end, when asked about the name “Jesus Jugs” Dubrow and Garson further exemplify Sontag in their respective responses of: “not very nice” and “I’m going to use it tomorrow!” That Cohen embodies both the seriousness and the aestheticism/irony of the modern sensibility is what makes his show an example of Camp and the Clubhouse a place where social politics can be addressed in a playful and subversive manner.


So glad you picked a scene with Cohen in his Clubhouse, Rachel! After reading about Cohen's ascent in television programming, I try to watch his segments with a more critical eye, but as this clip demonstrates, the guests and the actual content of what they're saying is endlessly distracting. That said, what role does boozing play in camp? It seems like a cocktail being waved about, dangerously on the verge of spillage, is integral to camp giving the proceedings an "Aunty Mame" feel---"what will they possible say next???" From Rachel Maddow's Cocktail Moments to Cohen drinking on set (presumably something was made of the fact that they're having cocktails), there may be some connections to be made about camp, Jewishness, good times, and liquor that are implied. I'm also thinking back to Norman Lear's 1970s sitcoms, Maude in particular, which featured a bar in the living room with frequent mixology and Conrad Bain's character (a doctor) offering to whip out the Rx pad for party favors. Is the sum total of all these parts, if we don't laugh and have a friendly drink, all this talk of relationships and subtextual social politics will end in tears?

The flagrant use of alcohol on the show is a great thing to question. You're absolutely right that that alcohol helps with the "if we don't laugh about it then we'll cry" attitude of the show that is undoubtedly camp. I hadn't really given it too much thought before, so thanks for pointing it out! Interestingly, on the Real Housewives shows, alcohol never seems to act as a form a merriment and light-heartedness but rather an impetus for fighting and regrettable behavior. I'd like to add that in the clubhouse the drinking games - word of the night, shot-ski, etc. - do something more than camp. On one hand, I think they reference "girls night out" and a cultural history of groups of young women watching shows like Beverly Hills 90210 or Party of Five or Sex or the City and playing drinking games. On the other hand, shot skis tend to fall in a more male domain of extreme sports, fraternity houses, and excessive drinking. In many ways the alcohol queers the text as Andy plays with gender roles and mixes up cultural norms. On a side note, I find it fascinating to see what guests are drinking and how much they drink. There could be a lot to do with the alcohol on the show; questions about the bartender, the drink of the night, and what the word of the day is all say a lot about the shows content, form, and popularity.

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